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Continued: Work&Life: Taking a license to work

  • Article by: H.J. CUMMINS , Star Tribune
  • Last update: September 21, 2005 - 11:00 PM

The new guilds

There are now 800 licensed occupations across all the United States, he said. He attributed the spurt in numbers of people in those occupations partly to new licensing and partly to the growth in already-licensed fields.

As more occupations get licensed, working people organize by profession instead of labor union, Kleiner believes. He likens the new arrangement to the guilds of Middle Ages Europe -- when weavers and stone masons, for example, organized to set standards of workmanship and control membership.

"Initially you get quality effects, but over the longer term you tend to get more of the monopoly effects," Kleiner said.

In current times, he said, there's more evidence that licensing leads to better pay than better quality in the covered occupations. On average it brings a 10 to 12 percent pay premium, he said -- comparing the incomes of an M.D. and a Ph.D. scientist who have comparable training and skills, for example.

"And although there may be benefits, it's very difficult to see how large they are or if they exist at all," Kleiner said. "Very few people are looking into the benefits vs. the costs."

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